Biglaw, Billable Hours, Kids, Partner Issues, Partner Profits

Married to the Firm: Partners Act Like My Kids

Ed. note: This new feature is by “Rachel Marks,” the spouse of an attorney at a large law firm. She’ll be blogging about how having a husband in Biglaw affects the life on the home front. And she’ll be talking about what your spouses really want out of your career. You can reach her at

My name is Rachel, and I’m married to a NY Biglaw guy who’s married to his firm. (And when I say married to his firm, I mean it in the typing-on-his-Blackberry-as-his-wife-is-pushing-out-his-second-child kind of way.) Thus, for obvious reasons, my name is fake, my location is undisclosed, and this might not even be me writing these words.

Why would a Biglaw wife want to write on Above the Law, you might wonder? Well, my husband is usually doing one of three things: working, sleeping, or reading this blog. (How I wish this was an exaggeration!) And since he doesn’t like it when I call him in the office (not that that stops me!), and he’s impossible to wake up, I can FINALLY get his attention now that I’ve come to a place where he’s sure to come by. (And on that note — hon, don’t forget to put out the recycling this evening, and you MUST call your mother and have that *talk*.)

Now, on to my real order of business, since perhaps this could all just be handled in some couples’ counseling: SPRING BONUSES. Where the heck are they?! Even I’ve begun reading ATL regularly, in hopes of seeing that wonderful yet ever elusive siren at the top of the page, alerting readers of the breaking news that my husband’s bonus is now only 50% depleted (as opposed to its current 75% depletion) from the glory days of bonuses past….

According to this Am Law Daily article, as of March 20th last year, twenty-one firms had already announced spring bonuses; a year and a week later (hey, who’s counting?), not a single one has done so. When asked why the firms were holding back, seventeen didn’t bother to respond (maybe that’s where my husband gets it from!), and the four that did respond only did so on the condition of anonymity. (Can’t exactly knock anonymity, can I?) The overarching reason for withholding spring bonuses seemed to be lack of incentive to pay them.

Even though a bunch of these twenty-one firms are making more money than ever, none of them want to pay more than necessary. Which my kids would totally agree with: why bother sharing when you don’t have to? As the mother of small children, teaching people how to share has become a knack of mine, and since I don’t think giving out cookies for good behavior will motivate Biglaw partners, I started to wonder if there was another way to do so.

And there is. But, my friends, I need your help, because even if I nag him from today until forever, my husband can’t do this alone. While you may be feeling impotent in this matter, the power is actually in your hands if you all work together. For your hands (and brains) are the machines that grease the partners’ palms, and if the partners see less grease, they will see that their incentive to pay above and beyond is to incentivize you the (lawyer) people to work above and beyond.

As of now, there is no reason to work more than your firm’s minimum hours for the year, and yet, if you’re like my husband, you end up working many more hours anyway. Which is why it’s time for New York associates to execute a work slowdown. If the partners see billable hours decrease, they’ll see their profits decrease. It’s time to show them that you too understand that there’s no incentive to do more than you have to.

Will you join us? If the partners get nervous, maybe just maybe the first firm will finally step up to the plate, and then, of course, the rest will follow.

(hidden for your protection)

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